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April 12, 2024

Amid fight to block museum’s expansion, Greater Portland Landmarks names new leader

Greater Portland Landmarks, the historic preservation group fighting the Portland Museum of Art's plan to expand in Congress Square, has hired a new executive director.

Kate Lemos McHale, who has worked in New York City preservation efforts for more than 20 years, will join Greater Portland Landmarks on July 1, the nonprofit advocacy organization said Friday.

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Kate Lemos McHale

She will succeed Laird Yock, who became interim executive director last July following the resignation of Sarah Hansen.

Since 2017, McHale has served as director of research at the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. There she manages a staff of 12 and is responsible for the surveying, research, evaluation and designation of landmarks and historic districts. Her role includes guiding policy decisions, stakeholder outreach and strategic planning, GPL wrote in a newsletter announcement.

Previously, she was a senior associate at New York-based Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners and also worked as a preservation consultant.

McHale, who grew up in midcoast Maine, was selected following a national search.

“We are thrilled to welcome Kate as our next executive director,” said Bruce Roullard, board president of Greater Portland Landmarks. “We had some great candidates to choose from, but Kate stood out as a leader with the proven ability to establish and maintain strong relationships with a variety of stakeholders.

"With experience in both the private and public sectors, she clearly has the management, communications, fundraising, and hands-on technical expertise we were seeking.”

McHale's hiring comes as Greater Portland Landmarks prepares for a potential showdown over the fate of 142 Free St., an 1830 structure next door to the Portland Museum of Art. Formerly the site of the Children's Museum & Theatre of Maine, the building was purchased by the PMA in 2019. The art museum has planned to raze the building in order to make way for a $100 million, 60,000-square-foot expansion.

Because 142 Free St. is in a historic district, the city would need to reclassify the building before the PMA could move forward with its new wing. A request for that reclassification is expected to be considered by the Portland City Council at its May 6 meeting, Greater Portland Landmarks has said, although the city has not yet published the meeting's agenda.

The preservation group has strongly opposed the reclassification request, which was previously considered by the Portland Historic Preservation Board and the city planning board. Both voted not to recommend approval by the council, which has the final say.

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